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The inseparability of democracy and a free press
Blog Post by Ambassador Gitenstein
12 MINUTE READ
November 23, 2022

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time with leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to talk about an issue that is close to my heart—the role of an independent press in a democracy.   

Democracy and a free press are inseparable.  Independent and pluralistic media hold governments to account.  Journalists expose corruption that poisons faith in democratic government.  They inform citizens on the issues that affect their lives and show societies how leaders are keeping or breaking their promises.  

Authoritarians seek to subvert the global order, notably by weaponizing information to undermine democracies and polarize societies.  Around the world, we see journalists facing harassment, intimidation, and threats for their work in scrutinizing the powerful.  

I was happy to join an event with the Czech Presidency to highlight stories of journalists fighting to preserve their independence, and exploring how media can find sustainable economic models to continue reporting in the most challenging environments.

 

Of course, independent media have a crucial role in established democracies, too.  By informing citizens and promoting transparency, journalists help governments adhere to the rule of law.  Independent and pluralistic press expose wrongdoing gives force to democratic norms and laws and prompts societies to act Civil society thought leaders like my friend Ambassador (ret.) Norm Eisen and experts from the Brookings Institution and German Marshall Fund of the United States are spurring discussions on the link between independent media and the rule of law to counter information manipulation and corruption.

In my conversations across Brussels, there is agreement that the United States and Europe must support credible and independent media that hold governments accountable—including my own. We must sustain pluralistic independent media to combat democratic backsliding and safeguard our values. We must defend journalists and their honorable profession not just with moral support, but also by building economic models and media ecosystems which allow them to thrive in the 21st century and beyond.

I welcome the new EU Media Freedom Act as an important step to protect journalistic independence and media pluralism. I was happy to speak with Vice President Jourova on how U.S. and EU can work more closely to support media independence.

In my conversations across Brussels, there is agreement that the United States and Europe must support credible and independent media that hold governments accountable—including my own.  We must sustain pluralistic independent media to combat democratic backsliding and safeguard our values.   We must defend journalists and their honorable profession not just with moral support, but also by building economic models and media ecosystems which allow them to thrive in the 21st century and beyond.

I welcome the new EU Media Freedom Act as an important step to protect journalistic independence and media pluralism.  I was happy to speak with Vice President Jourova on how U.S. and EU can work more closely to support media independence. 

The U.S. and EU are engaged on this issue at the very highest levels.  Last month, I welcomed President Metsola to my residence for a conversation with experts on how a free press combats corruption and upholds democracies.

As President Biden often notes, the struggle for democracy versus autocracy is the central challenge of our time.  Independent and pluralistic media are critical to meeting that challenge.  Without a free press, democracy cannot sustain itself and leaders cannot be held accountable for their actions.

I look forward to continuing these conversations to reduce the vulnerability of independent media to closure or economic and political capture and to strengthen the integrity of the media environment in the months ahead. 

I was happy to join an event with the Czech Presidency to highlight stories of journalists fighting to preserve their independence, and exploring how media can find sustainable economic models to continue reporting in the most challenging environments.